ASHTABULA — A northeast Ohio developer plans to spend millions to turn the former Carlisle’s building into apartments, office and retail space.
Renew Partners LLC has purchased, and intends to invest $12 million to redevelop, the Main Avenue building.
Renew, through its affiliate Carlisle-Allen LLC, bought the property from the Ashtabula County Land Revitalization Corp. for an undisclosed amount of money, said City Manager Jim Timonere, who also sits on the Land Bank Board of Directors.
Timonere said he’s glad to see a zombie property — a property that’s been abandoned — bought and redeveloped by a company city officials know and trust.
“The property will transfer from zombie to land bank to Carlisle-Allen LLC,” he said. “I’m thankful for this group; a lot of exciting things are happening downtown.”
The group has started the process of listing the five-story property on the National Register of Historic Places, obtaining state and federal tax credits and has prepared a pipeline application with the Ohio Department of Development, according to a release from Renew.
LDA Architects of Cleveland has been hired for design and JCI Contractors of Ashtabula will do the construction work. Plans for the project include new apartments, office and first-floor retail space. The next seven months will be spent on the planning and pre-development work, Timonere said.
Construction is slated to begin in 2020.
“This is very exciting,” Council President John Roskovics said at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Ward 5 Council woman Jane Haines said she was so happy, she felt like doing a cartwheel.
The Carlisle’s store that local people remember started as the Tyler and Carlisle dry goods store in the mid-19th century in the Ashtabula Harbor. In 1874, the store moved to a new brick building at 127 Main Ave.
By the end of the century, the Tyler family left the business and Carlisle entered into partnership with Miles Allen in 1911. They formed Carlisle Company Department stores at 163-165 Main Ave.
However, many Main Avenue retail businesses did not survive the arrival of the Ashtabula Mall in 1992. In 1993, Carlisle’s opened a clothing store in the mall, but later that year it entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to news reports at the time.
Since the store’s closing, the freeze/thaw cycle of northeast Ohio has taken its toll on the building, city officials have said.
Lorenzo (Ren) Carlisle, great-great grandson of the store founder, said he was delighted to hear of the plans for the old Carlisle building.
“The re-development of the Carlisle building will be a huge boost for Main Avenue and the city,” he said. “I congratulate Renew Partners for their commitment to Ashtabula and for their vision regarding a landmark building that has been vacant too long.”
Refurbishing the Carlisle’s building has been a long time coming.
The building was forfeited to the state in 2016 and in 2017 EPA officials took three days to walk through the building, taking numerous samples of air and building materials. They found plaster and debris, collapsed floors and ceilings and contaminated air.
For many years before that, the city tried to work with the building’s former owner, Gary Harris, formerly of Conneaut. City officials served him with code violations, to no avail. He refused to sell the building and threw roadblocks at efforts to clean up or raze the building.
Several groups tried over the years to raise the money to remodel and redevelop the building and its property, but all were blocked by Harris.
Four years ago, the state took possession of it because of unpaid taxes.
Renew is no stranger to developing complex historic tax credit projects. Led by Chuck Borsukoff and Shawn Neece, along with JCI Contractors, they refurbished the historic Hotel Ashtabula in to medical offices to rent to Signature Health.
The same team also renovated the historic Mentor Village Hall and the old Chardon Post Office. Both buildings are now offices for the NMS accounting firm.
JCI Vice President Charles N. Borsukoff said he’s proud to call Ashtabula home and pleased to be part of another important project downtown.
Late last year, Renew, through another affiliate, also bought the historic Castle Block property on Center Street in Ashtabula, which is in the design and pre-construction phase. When completed, the property will be home to apartments and commercial retail.
“Our group is already invested in downtown Ashtabula and own multiple properties,” said Chuck Borsukoff.
“We are pleased to embark on this new development and be part of the resurgence of downtown.”